U.S. Surgeon General holds town hall at UW to hear anti-smoking ideas

U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin held a town hall meeting Thursday at the University of Washington to discuss with young adults from the Pacific Northwest how best to prevent smoking among the young.

“It’s hard,” Benjamin told the crowd. “I watched my mother die from lung cancer, I told my mother to stop smoking all those years, but she wouldn`t listen to me.”

The Food and Drug Administration now has the ability to regulate tobacco, and it is rolling out several types of initiatives with the goal is to prevent kids from ever lighting that first smoke.

Some students, like Joshua Buehler, believe you`ve also got to help current smokers kick the habit.

“Under a college budget, I realize as a college student, financing nicotine-replacement therapy is often difficult,” Buehler said. “So at University of Oregon over the past year, we have provided both quit-counseling and nicotine-replacement therapy, free of charge, to all students,” he said to applause.  

“These kids have great ideas,” Benjamin said. “They’re going to be the ones who make their next generation tobacco free.”

A contributor at the town hall was Washington Secretary of State Mary Selecky.  “You know, Washington state has done a great job over the last 12 years, and it’s kind of stalled.”

She said half the amount of kids in school use tobacco, compared with 10 years ago, but that new challenges have surfaced.

“There are more products, flavored cigarillos, pouches of Snus, marketing as cool because they have menthol in them … that’s very concerning to us,” she said.

Policymakers, advocates and tobacco prevention leaders plan to use input from Thursday’s forum to make changes nationwide.